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  • Pixar’s Rules for Great Storytelling

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    Pixar Animation

    Thanks to department chair Eric Conner of the screenwriting program for this great tip! A story artist at Pixar Animation Studios had been tweeting a series of “story basics” which illustrates the kind of talent that exists at Pixar. Their overwhelming success is easily demonstrated by the numbers. 7 out of 12 Pixar films were nominated for Best Screenplay at the Oscars and the company won the Animated Feature Academy Award 6 times. They have 13 consecutive box-office toppers and 2 Best Picture nominations. If that’s not proof of their genius, then we don’t know what is. Steve Jobs purchased the studio in 1986 for $10 million. It was originally a hardware company with only one animator on its staff. Now it’s widely reputed to be one of the best film studios on the planet. Here’s a quote on Deadline from the producer of the latest Pixar hit Brave, which debuted at number 1 at the Box Office this weekend. They attribute their phenomenal success to the basic wisdom that story trumps all.

    It was not easy. The biggest challenges at Pixar are always the stories. We want really original stories that come from the hearts and minds of our filmmakers. We take years in crafting the story and improving it and changing it; throwing things out that aren’t working and adding things that do work. All of that  is just the jumping off point for the technology and how we are going to make this happen.

    Without further ado, here are 22 pointers from Pixar’s story artists for creating a compelling story and building a mega-successful franchise. Don’t forget to learn more about our animation curriculum and become a top-notch animator for Pixar. Click here to request more information on the program!

    1. You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.

    2. You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be very different.

    3. Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.
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    June 25, 2012 • 3D Animation, Film School, Screenwriting • Views: 3797

  • Deciphering Stanley Kubrick at the New York Film Academy

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    Director and NYFA Editing Instructor Rodney Ascher recently returned from the Cannes Film Festival where his first feature film, Room 237, was one of only two American films in the Directors’ Fortnight. His documentary explores numerous theories about Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film, The Shining, and its hidden meanings. The film premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and received glowing reviews from the major press. Here’s a roundup.

    • New York Times examined the documentary and called it an “intriguing” look at a growing subculture of Kubrick fans which has developed over the years.
    • “One of the great movies about movies…”  – Variety.
    • The Hollywood Reporter said, “Nutty, arcane and jaw-dropping in equal measure.”
    • On his blog, New York Magazine film critic Bilge Ebiri chose Room 237 as his Sundance pick. “The film expresses, better than any movie I can think of right now, the feeling of being lost inside the world of a film, and by extension being lost inside the world of film.”
    • “A brilliant work of alternative film criticism – and critique of criticism.” – LA Weekly.

    “Kubrick was my first favorite filmmaker,” says Ascher, “and one whose work has stuck with me throughout my life – The Shining in particular. The first time I saw it, I managed to sit through about 10 minutes. The music in particular filled me with an overwhelming sense of dread and doom that was more than I could take. It soon became one of my favorites.”

    Ascher says the idea for the film came after a chance Facebook posting. “My friend, Tim Kirk, who went on to become a producer of the film, posted an analysis of [The Shining] on my Facebook page. I became interested in the phenomenon — lots of people bringing up radical ideas. I thought we could make a pretty comprehensive field guide to what was in the film. It soon became clear that we could only get the tip of the iceberg.” Room 237 shares theories about The Shining from five people, told through voice over, film clips, animations, and dramatic reenactments. Ascher describes it as “not just a demonstration about how it has captured people’s imaginations, but also how people react to movies, and literature, and the arts in general.”

    The film was chosen to screen as part of the Director’s Fortnight at Cannes alongside Michel Gondry’s The We and the I. Room 237 is being distributed by IFC in North America and Wild Bunch in France. Watch for a theatrical release later this year. “It’s very exciting,” says Ascher, “I’d been used to being sort of an outcast with short films, screening to more … select groups. It was great. The screenings were packed, we were in a gigantic theater, got great press … I’m sure anyone would be excited.”

    See yourself premiering your movie at Sundance, screening it at Cannes, and getting fawned over by critics? Then look into our school and decide if it’s the right path for you.

    Rodney Ascher at Cannes Film Festival.

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    June 7, 2012 • Community Highlights, Digital Editing • Views: 5977

  • The Importance of Learning Your Audience

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    Ron Tippe is the department chair of the Producing department at the New York Film Academy. He is best known as the animation producer for the smash hit Space Jam. He managed the Walt Disney Feature Animation studio in Paris, France while producing the short film Runaway Brain which was nominated for an Academy award. He was also responsible for pre-production on Shrek and worked with George Lucas in collaboration with Universal Studios on Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman. 

    I must be a lucky guy. After 27 years in Hollywood with a successful career in the film business, I’m now the Chair of Producing for NYFA. First off, I get to work with some very special people. My fellow colleagues come from various countries which offer different perspectives from a variety of cultures around the world. That said, the commonality is their love of cinema. Almost to a person, the level of passion is infectious and energizing. This attitude towards the art of filmmaking is what constitutes success as a film producer.

    • KNOW WHO YOUR AUDIENCE IS. In the entertainment business, nothing is decided at the studio level these days. At least not without going through marketing, branding and PR first. The goal for a studio is to maximize financial gain and stem any losses. Focus groups are de rigeur. In the independent world, film festivals and smaller theatrical releases often depend on word-of-mouth in addition to ever-expanding social media campaigns.
    • GRAB THEM IN THE FIRST TEN MINUTES. When looking for a film to produce, make sure that the first 10 pages of the script are compelling. Introduce the main characters and make sure we understand what the protagonist wants. And then how the antagonist prevents that from happening. Comedy or drama, action or fantasy, a great story is imperative to grab the audience. The sooner the better!
    • WE ARE GLOBAL. The box office is increasingly getting two-thirds of their money  internationally. Producers, it’s a global marketplace. Know it. Own it.
    • WORD OF MOUTH IS A MOVIE’S BEST FRIEND. If an audience is satisfied, he or she will tell others. Facebook, Twitter, Email. You name it, they will use it.  Social media is where it’s at.
    • AUDIENCES ARE NOT STUPID. They are very culturally savvy, increasingly educated and obviously fickle. They know what they like and dislike.

    A producer is someone who works insane hours under very difficult conditions. You’re always inside the pressure cooker. You’re constantly nudged by studio executives with their myriad of concerns—most of which are related to budgets and finance. How is this related to being a teacher of film? Passion is absolutely essential in the making a film, or at least in providing a great experience during the making of that film. The same is true in the classroom. A passionate teacher is infectious, and that passion often manifests itself in motivated and inspired students. A great producer can make or break that wonderful experience. After all, the producer is who a crew looks to for leadership. It’s a high standard. The same is true in the classroom here at NYFA. We aim to attain the highest standards and “shoot” for it every single day.

    I’m proud of my teachers and students. We are motivated and inquisitive. Most importantly, we work hard. The students will become great producers for the next generation of moviegoers. Because producers have a strong hand in the filmmaking process, we should be proud of the education that the students are getting here at NYFA. Frankly, we should let the world know how good we are. Time to get the word out. Producer. Teacher. Leader. Motivator. I must be a very lucky guy. Stand by to roll.

    Action!

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    April 24, 2012 • Producing • Views: 7081